Sirajuddin Haqqani (Arabic: سراج الدين حقاني aliases Khalifa, and, Siraj Haqqani. born c. 1973 to 1980) is an Afghan military leader who is one of the two deputies of Taliban supreme commander, Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada. He is also the leader of the Haqqani network, a sub-set of the Taliban organisation, and a scion of the Haqqani clan. As deputy leader of the Taliban, he oversaw armed combat against American and coalition forces, reportedly from a base within North Waziristan District in Pakistan.
On 26 May 2016, it was reported that his role as deputy was mostly involved in military affairs. On 7 May 2020, it was reported that late Taliban founder Mohammad Omar’s son Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob had become head of the Taliban military commission, thus making Yaqoob the insurgents’ new military chief.
After the Taliban retook control of the country, he was appointed as Minister of Interior of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, on 7 May 2021.
Sirajuddin Haqqani is a son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, a Pashtun mujahid and military leader of pro-Taliban forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and his Arab wife from the United Arab Emirates (he also had a Pashtun wife). Sirajuddin has brothers from both of his father’s wives. He spent his childhood in Miramshah, North Waziristan, Pakistan, and attended Darul Uloom Haqqania Deobandi Islamic seminary in Akora Khattak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. His younger brother Mohammad Haqqani, also a member of the network, died in a drone attack on February 18, 2010, in Dande Darpakhel, a village in North Waziristan.
The Arabic of the English translation of Sirajuddin is سراج الدين. According to one source, which provides the translation within Urdu, the name has the meaning light of the religion. The name Siraj, converted to Arabic, is سِرَاج, which similarly has the meaning of any object which produces light, or light itself, i.e. a cresset, lamp, a candle, or again, light itself, and accordingly, the Sun. Siraj is a Quranic name, in that it is used four times within the Quran, and the word is also used to describe Prophet Mohammad.
The name “Haqqani” was taken from the Darul Uloom Haqqania, attended by many leading figures of the Haqqani network. Many prominent positions in the Pakistani and Afghan wings of the Taliban organization have also been held by graduates of the seminary.
Haqqani has admitted planning the January 14, 2008 attack against the Serena Hotel in Kabul that killed six people, including American citizen Thor David Hesla. Haqqani confessed his organization and direction of the planning of an attempt to assassinate Hamid Karzai, planned for April 2008. His forces have been accused by coalition forces of carrying out the late December 2008 bombing in Kabul at a barracks near an elementary school that killed several schoolchildren, an Afghan soldier, and an Afghan guard; no coalition personnel were affected.
In November 2008 New York Times reporter David S. Rohde was kidnapped in Afghanistan. His initial captors are believed to have been solely interested in a ransom. Sirajuddin Haqqani is reported to have been Rohde’s last captor prior to his escape.
Several reports indicated that Haqqani was targeted in a massive U.S. drone attack on February 2, 2010, but that he was not present in the area affected by the attack.
In March 2010, Haqqani was described as one of the leaders on the “Taliban’s Quetta Shura”. Sirajuddin Haqqani’s deputy, Sangeen Zadran, was killed by a US drone strike on 5 September 2013.
On May 31, 2020, British Taliban expert Antonio Guistozzi told Foreign Policy that Sirajuddin Haqqani was infected with COVID-19, which resulted in him being absent from the group’s leadership mix.
The U.S. government’s FBI is offering up to US$5 million in reward for information leading to Sirajuddin Haqqani’s capture.
When Akhtar Mansour was elected as the new leader of the Taliban in 2015, a communication was posted quoting Sirajuddin Haqqani:
…My particular recommendation to all members of the Islamic Emirate is to maintain their internal unity and discipline…
Sirajuddin Haqqani wrote an opinion piece titled “What We, the Taliban, Want”, which appeared in the New York Times on February 20, 2020.
In 2010, Haqqani released a 144-page Pashto-language book, a training manual entitled Military Lessons for the Benefit of the Mujahedeen, where he appears more radical than the Talibans, as it shows influences from al-Qaida, supporting beheading and suicide bombings while legitimizing targeting the West, asking Muslims there to “blend in, shave, wear Western dress, be patient.”